Thursday, April 17, 2014

Red Sox Offense Painful to Watch, Especially for 14 Innings

The Red Sox beat the White Sox 6-4 early Thursday morning. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 2-run double in the 14th was the game winner. The Red Sox only got 1 hit in the 8th and 9th innings, yet somehow managed to score a run in each inning.

In fact the Red Sox were held completely hitless from the 2nd until 1 out in the 9th. The Red Sox only totaled 6 hits overall, and only of those 5 came against actual pitchers. JBJ's 14th inning game winning double was off utility infielder Leury Garcia. Garcia had never pitched in the Majors or minors.

It's alarming that an infielder was on the mound and the Sox went 1 for 3 with a double and 2 walks. Sizemore and Pedroia each grounded out. Pierzynski flew out. Against a second baseman.

I'm not worried that the Red Sox offense will be this woefully powerless all season long. Pedroia and Ortiz haven't been doing what we know they'll do. And there are some decent bats sidelined with injury. It will get better.

For the time being, however, this offense blows, and blows quite comprehensively. No hits whatsoever in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th innings. Two of the 6 total hits were infield singles, 1 was off a second baseman, and it was the only hit they got off him. The Red Sox are 23rd in runs scored and 24th in team batting average.

It will improve. It can't not improve. What I'm beginning to wonder is if it will improve enough. The Red Sox scored the most runs in baseball last year (853). Then they lost Jacoby Ellsbuy and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who were 3rd and 5th, respectively, on the team in OWAR.

With Ellsbury they lost 172 hits, 246 bases, 48 extra-base hits, 52 steals, 92 runs. With Saltalamacchia they lost 116 hits, 198 bases, 54 extra-base hits, 14 homers, 65 RBI, 68 runs. If you include steals, the Sox lost exactly 500 bases when they parted ways with these two players.

They have been replaced by decent players. Grady Sizemore has so far done all you could hope to expect of him. JBJ has looked good although he has less power than Ellsbury had, which wasn't much to begin with. And A.J. Pierzynski's OBP is just south of .300. It's silly to think that you could lose two of your top 6 offensive producers (one who leads off and the other who anchors the middle/bottom of the order), replace them with guys who you don't even expect to be as good, and then believe your offense won't get worse.

Oh, and don't forget that Daniel Nava, who had a career year last year, is hitting .137. And I'm sure that will improve. But will it improve to the .303 average he had last year, with an impressive .385 OBP? This is a guy who at 31 has only 1 Major League season with over 300 at-bats. What's more likely in 2014, that Nava finishes 15th in baseball in OBP again, or that his performance drops? There's optimism, then there's hope and prayer.

Maybe I'm sleep deprived, and that's why I'm writing such a downer of a post. The Red Sox still have a very good offense. It's just not as good as last year's, nor is it the best in baseball.

This means that the pitching staff must step up. It means that the bullpen has to work hard to squeeze out close games like Wednesday night's/Thursday morning's 6-4 win. In that game, the bullpen combined for 8 innings, allowed 4 hits, only 1 earned run, only 1 walk, and struck out 9. That's a strong effort by 5 good relievers, although Edward Mujica almost ruined it.

The offense will get better. Ortiz and Pedroia will definitely hit. Nava will probably hit, Victorino and Middlebrooks will return. Runs will score. Just not as often as last year.

Photo Credit:
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press